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Crowdfund bid to protect flooded Marx Memorial Library

Campaign launched after historic documents were damaged as rain poured through roof

06 December, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Archivist and library manager Meirian Jump

“HEROIC” librarians and historians who saved precious archives as the Marx Memorial Library was hit by flooding will be thanked as a crowdfunding appeal is launched to protect the iconic building’s future.

Water broke through the flat roof of the library after heavy rain in September, gushing through the building and putting 60,000 documents at risk and sparking a rescue operation.

The Clerkenwell Green Library, where Vladimir Lenin edited the iconic Iskra (The Spark) magazine at the turn of the 20th century, is aiming to raise £50,000 for an “urgent programme of works” to restore the building.

Some of the documents that were saved

A launch event takes place today (Friday) from 4pm when the heroes will be recognised for their quick-thinking.

The archive, which holds original documents on the Peterloo massacre and banners from the Spanish Civil War, could have been totally destroyed without a quick response from the London Fire Brigade and an army of volunteers.

Archivist and library manager Meirian Jump, said: “Next time we might not be so lucky. After what happened before there was an outpouring of support which was very moving.

“But there is now vital work that needs to be done on the building and the archives which we need help for.”

Firefighters raced to help tackle the flooding at the library

Every week volunteers are having to go through the vast collection to make sure there isn’t any mould growing on them.

The books that were damaged on the day are undergoing treatment and have been sent to the London Metropolitan Archives centre to be scanned into a WordPress system.

Ms Jump, who has worked at the library for five years, said: “In our time of need Marx House was full of willing volunteers doing everything from mopping up to offering expert collection care advice. It was wonderful and overwhelming, but more than anything it demonstrated to us what this place – our history, our archives and our education work – means to so many.

“But this is just the beginning. What happened has highlighted the need for an urgent programme of works to restore our historic building, protect our collections and transform access to Marx House.”

The Marx Memorial Library

The library wants to restructure the drainage system. At the moment rainwater is funnelled from the memorial ­garden towards the build­ing; and water collects in pools on the flat roof.

Ms Jump added: “In the years I have been here we have seen a huge surge in interest in working-class culture and history, and our team of volunteers has grown.”

An agreement had been made between the library and Islington Museum’s heritage team to help each other if ever there was an emergency.

Ms Jump is hoping that money can be raised in time to celebrate the 150th birthday of Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, on April 22 next year.

All donors will be invited to a birthday celebration next spring.

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